Beth Westbrook Starnes | October 23, 2013
Katie was young and full of life. She was an outstanding athlete and gifted student. She wanted to grow up and attend law school. She had no idea that at age 12, she would have cancer.
After my daughter, Katie, died of bone cancer at the age of 15, following a pathway for preventing cancer became a central focus in my life. Watching someone you love try so hard to live lead me to believe I could do more for my own health. During this time, I altered my diet, exercised more and went for routine check ups. Granted osteosarcoma (bone cancer), is not a preventable disease, however, that was not the end of my journey.
Two years later, in 2003, my wonderful husband came home from work one night and told me the doctor suspected he had prostate cancer. My mind was screaming, please cancer NO, don’t take one more person from me. Andy was 52, an active bicyclist and healthy eater. He also maintained regular physicals and testing. Yes, he did have cancer and because they caught it early, Andy is now free of the disease. Andy taught me to be vigilant and be an advocate for your health in order to prevent cancer from taking over your body.
My journey does not end there. In 2007, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 79. He had grown up in an era where smoking was cool and the warning of health dangers came late. When the deadly messages did start coming, he quit. However, the years of accumulated smoking caught up to him and the disease took his life in 2009. Dad would be happy to know advances in early screening for lung cancer are becoming more available. We cannot give up finding new ways to detect cancer earlier. Knowing your family history and communicating the information to your doctors can build a preventable pathway.
Katie had three wishes before she died. She wanted to try on a wedding dress, she wanted to drive a car and she wanted to be kissed by a boy (and not a pity kiss). She lived life to the fullest right to the end. Katie believed all of us should be on the quest to end cancer and never give up. It begins with prevention. Learn what you can about preventing cancer and adapt your lifestyle one step at a time. Let your preventable pathway continue to unfold.